Summer may be over but I still don’t see any autumn.

So, it has been a while (an embarrassingly long while) since I updated this thing and I’m afraid it’s gotten to the point where there’s just so much stuff to post that I don’t even know where to begin. It might seem a little helter-skelter around here for a bit because I’m going to post things that aren’t necessarily in chronological order, but bear with me. I haven’t been posting because things have just been that busy around here. I’ll start with something fun.

Our little family just returned home from an adorable vacation spent in Galveston. We rented a lovely yellow house a block away from the beach and had a blast at the tail end of the season.

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Elliott is used to Galveston because her dad lived there for a while and his parents and siblings still do, so her visits with them always included time on the seawall. Grayson, however, had never even seen a beach in his fifteen months of existence, but boy did he make up for lost time.

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My dad used to take me and my sister Liz, who was maybe 5 or so at the time, for weekend visits in California (where I was born) when I was Grayson’s age and he loves to tell the story of me sprinting as fast as my chubby legs could carry me toward the water of Monterey Bay. I was waiting for Grayson to try kamikaze-ing into the brownish waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but he was not a fan of salt water in his nose, so that wasn’t too much of an issue after the first wave he underestimated.

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Ellie was way more interested in building sandcastles (or, rather, what she referred to as sandcastles), mainly so she could destroy them. She got the most ridiculous tan ever after our four days of unrelenting sunshine. My mom has been joking non-stop that Ellie’s darker than me now, but she’s blind without her glasses, so what does she know?

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Overall, Galveston is a far cry from the white sand beaches of Florida and the water definitely isn’t blue or green like you’d get in Hawaii or the Caribbean, but the house we rented was comfortable and really cute, the whole vacation was really affordable, and BEST OF ALL, it’s an hour and fifteen minutes away, which minimized our risk of roadside temper tantrums.

There are lots of things to do in Galveston, depending on your budget and what you and your troop enjoy doing. My tiny tyrants require constant engagement, for the most part, so the beach itself was a major hit. The other families kids shoving sand into buckets, the passersby with dogs on leashes, the seemingly endless parade of pigeons or whatever those birds were, and the sand and waves made for quite a few lovely and relaxing afternoons.

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We took the ferry to Bolivar Island right at sunset and that was fantastic. The ride itself is slightly less than 3 miles and, at about 15 minutes each way, is long enough to enjoy without being too long, but on weekends, the return line can get preeettty long. I highly recommend checking the Houston TranStar traffic camera website (http://traffic.houstontranstar.org/cctv/transtar/by_roadway.html?mnu=ferry&rd=Galveston_Ferry) first. We saw dolphins, seagulls, a light house, and a partially-sunken World War I ship, and best of all- it’s totally free!

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My mom went with me on the ferry to make sure no tiny humans went overboard.

We ate a LOT of seafood, which for a homesick New Orleanian was a treat. There’s an impressive amount of Gulf seafood around town (who’dve expected that in a town on the Gulf of Mexico?), ranging from $6 poboys to gourmet cuisine. We had really great Italian at a place called Mario’s on the Seawall. I literally ate shrimp every single day. That alone almost qualifies the place as heaven.

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L-to-R: shrimp scampi, shrimp Alfredo, and shrimp parmesan at Mario’s on the Seawall.

We skipped the “Pleasure Pier” because Ellie’s dad has taken her there before and it’s a rip off. Apparently, it’s $10 just to walk onto the boardwalk, before you play any games or ride any rides. There are a very limited number of rides, they’re pretty expensive, the games are your typical carny fare, and there aren’t really any toddler-friendly rides, aside from a big ferris wheel. I’d rather take Ellie to the carnival that parks in the Sharpstown Mall parking lot for all that hassle, to be honest. And anyway, my first priority at any carnival isn’t the rides or the games. I go there for the candy apples. But that’s a post for another time.

All in all, we had a really great time. Then again, I’d have a great time just about anywhere with John. With our rugrats in tow and my mom there to lend a helping hand, it’s a recipe for well-spent family time.

An overload of recent cuteness

So many things have happened to the FNE krewe in the past couple of months.

  • I went back to work at my old job.
  • We started hardcore potty training. Let’s just say there were many days that didn’t include pants.
  • We moved furniture around- big time. The junky front room became a proper living room. The den became a large dining room. The former (tiny) dining room/eat-in kitchen became a temporary catch-all until it becomes a playroom. The catch-all third bedroom caught more stuff.
  • I got a job as a writer.
  • The kids started daycare.
  • I turned 25. (the horror!)
  • I did a large-scale re-arrangement and re-decoration of the living room, complete with fun DIYs (which included an engineer print of Andy Warhol and the Clash and a faux-snakeskin lamp with a custom shade).
  • I decorated the outside of the house for Halloween
  • Elliott turned 3 and had a Princesses & Pirates-themed party to celebrate
  • Grayson turned 6 months old (three days later)
  • It got super cold in Houston

So much stuff to talk about! But since I’m WAAAY overdue for my bedtime, I’ll just leave you with some pictures of all the cuteness that’s been going on.

Sibling portrait

Sibling portrait

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Elliott helping Grayson perfect his dishwashing technique

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Post-bath smiles

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Ready for school

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My mini me and her birthday balloon

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Ellie hanging out in her favorite station in her classroom

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Grayson & my sister, Aunt “Pizza”

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a Pirate and a birthday Princess (and part of Aunt Lysa)

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Ellie and her bodyguards go night night.
(This was earlier tonight.)

Four Names Each + USFamilyGuide.com

Four Names Each is now a member of US Family Guide’s Moms Connect blog directory. The Family Guide is an amazing resource for parents to find local coupons, reviews, and discounts as well as childcare, shopping, dining, and activity information in their area. The Moms Connect directory is a great place to find other mommy blogs and submit your own blog for consideration.

I’m really excited to be part of this amazing network of parents and bloggers!

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The DIY that started it all

John asked me to move in with him at IKEA. It probably doesn’t sound very romantic to anyone but me, but we were there picking up a few items that any functioning human being should have in their home which, of course, Bachelor John did not have. I don’t remember if he said he’d ever been there or not.  Possibly not. We were walking around the showroom when he casually mentioned that since my lease was about to expire and I didn’t want to renew at my current apartment, Ellie and I could move in with him– y’know, if we wanted to. To me, this nonchalant suggestion in the midst of all of those reasonably priced, stylish yet functional housewares was aptly romantic. My daughter and I spent a considerable amount of time at his house anyway. He and I were spending pretty much all of our free time together. It was practical and yet romantic because it meant he wanted me around all the time and he was okay with the fact that my daughter was part of the package deal. I was totally okay with waking up to his face every morning.

Glidden “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” from Home Depot something like $25 per gallon

We moved into his three bedroom, two bathroom house. In true bachelor pad fashion, he had the two areas where he did his living burrowed out and the rest of the house was essentially a big storage unit. After clearing out one of the two spare bedrooms, I started setting up a nursery for Ellie, my then-18 month old daughter. I used a color called “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” for the walls that I had used in the living room of my old apartment, which had a bamboo tree in front of the windows that kept the room shaded and made the wall color look like a gorgeous jewel-toned chartreuse. I loved that color so much in my old apartment, but thanks to the big window that let lots of natural light into her new nursery, it looked like a bright banana yellow and drove me insane. It didn’t help that the accent wall I painted that looked like a nice shade of tan while wet in the can dried into the ugliest, weird shade of light brown that I’ve ever seen. Her nursery reminded me of a soft pretzel with mustard on it. The jungle safari-themed decor she had from her last nursery went with it, though, so I just went along with it. (Mainly because I didn’t want to buy paint and start over right after moving in and doing all that.) So, yellow and brown the nursery remained. (Because apparently I’m Yoda now.)

Ellie lived in the yellow and brown nursery for about six months before I decided to redo it. By that time, I was pregnant with her little brother and getting into nesting mode. John and I had decided to combine both kids into one nursery, turn the den into a nice, spacious dining room, and turn the small dining room into a playroom so we could keep the third bedroom for guests and his drum set. That meant that I got to design and decorate these new rooms completely from scratch, which is more than fine with me. I set about making the nursery first. As an avid lover follower of Apartment Therapy, I went there first for inspiration. I love looking at the nurseries and playrooms that readers have shared and found what ended up influencing the direction of our nursery’s decor. I wanted this chest of drawers. I loved contrast of the dark wood and the white, the clean lines, and the way it all looked against the light tan wallpaper. It would be the perfect opportunity to makeover a “Rast” from IKEA. Those things are $35, real pine, and begging to be someone’s next DIY project. They’re so easily customizable that I’m surprised I haven’t hacked one for every room of the house. As it is, I’m already planning to do another in the exact same style so each of the kids can have their own.

So, I bought my “Rast,” a gallon of white paint, and a quart of walnut stain, cleared out space in my garage, and got to work. I painted the outer frame crisp, ultra white. It was a flat paint, which wasn’t the best idea. Whenever I make the second one, I plan on doing them both with a semi-gloss to make it easier to wipe down for the inevitable tiny fingerprints that will end up all over them. I painted the insides of the drawers with orange paint as a little surprise when you open them. I stained the drawers with walnut Minwax, front and back. It was a pretty simple project. I think the most difficult part was waiting for it to dry so I could get it in the room. I was so excited to have a project to work on that brought the room one step closer to being the fun space I had envisioned.

I added bigger wood knobs than the ones that came with it, which I spray painted silver. I’m still not completely in love with the knobs, but I haven’t found anything that I like better. Once the chest had a place in the room, I got so inspired. I really started to figure out exactly how I was going to piece together the nursery and it jumpstarted a ton of projects that I am really proud of. I’ve always liked DIY projects. My mom spent the first five years of her marriage to my pop renovating and decorating the house we moved into, so I grew up watching her roll up her sleeves and create an amazing, well decorated, well loved home on her own. She really instilled that same spirit in me. Having an amazing living space is as simple as figuring out how to make what you want and doing it. The toughest part for me is reigning myself in when I start working on twenty projects at once. I’d love to hear about some reader DIY projects in the comments!

The nobility of living with less

I just updated my status on facebook and it made me feel like writing about the topic.

I really do want to master this idea of “living with less” that seems to be everywhere suddenly. I stalk a few home decor and DIY websites and mommy blogs and this concept is everywhere. All of the gorgeously appointed living rooms that you see on these sites with their perfect balance between industrial furniture with warm accents and modern lines with vintage touches here and there and their extremely well curated smattering of coffee table books and houseplants all seem like no one could possibly live there because

where is all of their stuff!? I totally recognize and acknowledge that the vast majority of the shit I own is completely unnecessary and could be thrown away with very little impact on my life. Yeah, maybe I’d miss my decorative gold skull for a week or so but in the long run, no big deal. Does every room of my house need no less than two bookshelves full of old books (which I love) and knick knacks whose sole purpose is to look nice? No, of course I don’t, but hell if those things don’t make my life more aesthetically pleasing.

As a mom, it almost makes me feel like a failure to feel the need to have so much stuff. I really would like to go through my house with trash bags and toss 85% of the stuff I have into the bags and donate it and never look back. I’m currently working on doing just that, but maybe on a smaller, more introductory scale. I want to dip my big toe into the “living with less” pool and see if I like it before I send my precious knick knacks plunging into the deep end.

I can admit that I am pretty aesthetically motivated. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t dye my hair a new color or chop on it every three months. I would be able to walk through the clearance aisle at Target without emerging with half a basket full of pointless stuff that I’ve justified buying because hey, “it’s only $20.” (Really, I think it may be a sadder statement about the value of a $20 bill these days than about my impulsive collection of random things and impeccable skills when it comes to justifying things.)

looks nice, but where’s your stuff, bro?
(photo courtesy of apartment therapy)
I was thinking about this yesterday, though. What is it about living with less that seems so damn noble? Is it some kind of statement about what you value in life? Just because you don’t have a whole lot of crap littering the table tops and shelves of your life doesn’t mean you’re living a somehow more enriched or fulfilled life. Maybe your only real possessions are a sofa and an Xbox. I think my life with my overabundance of table lamps and embarrassing number of throw pillows is way more meaningful. I suppose my love of stuff makes me more materialistic than my lesser-burdened counterparts, but I don’t think of myself that way. The things that I’ve accumulated over the years add pleasure, but no meaning.
It does give me a certain amount of comfort to know that if my house burned down or we had to relocate suddenly with nothing but the clothes on our backs, I’d be okay with it. Hell, I’ve done it once already. Maybe that’s why the whole thing resonates with me so much. After grabbing two changes of clothes and the bunny stuffed animal I’ve had since I was four and leaving for what I thought was going to be a long weekend at best when we evacuated for Hurricane Katrina, but having that turn out to be the loss of our house, much of our stuff, and our entire way of life, I suppose I’ve started collecting things to comfort myself or try to replace the trinkets of my childhood. I don’t know.
Maybe I’m putting way too much thought into it. Writing this is definitely taking away from my furniture moving time. Time to get back to my housework. I’ve got so much stuff to dust and rearrange.

What’s in a name?

A brief explanation behind the title of this blog:

My children have different dads.

My daughter’s last name is a hyphenate of my last name and her dad’s.
My son’s last name is a hyphenate of my last name and his dad’s.

I didn’t know that I wouldn’t stay with my ex when I chose to hyphenate my daughter’s last name almost three years ago. I chose her last name because I really love my last name. My dad has four daughters and no sons, so our branch of our last name dies with my generation. I’m very proud of my French Creole heritage and of being from New Orleans and my last name is a reflection of both of those aspects of who I am. I want my children to have a same appreciation of their heritage and never lose touch with their roots, so I included my last name in both of their last names.

My last name is simple but strong. Five letters, two syllables. It rolls off the tongue nicely. Both of the children’s fathers have five letter last names, so the hyphenate isn’t overwhelming or super long. Their last names sound nice and look really great on paper, in my opinion.

Now that I’ve had my son, I also really like the fact that the children share part of their last name.

Because of the hyphenated last names, both of my children have four names each.